Posted by: mobilitycloud | July 19, 2012

Ultrabooks – Very Possibly the Next True Killer Mobile Devices

With the long-awaited rumors that Microsoft will announce the dates for the release of Windows 8 very soon, it will also be the time to lift the “lid” on Ultrabooks as we will see these coming out of the woodwork. I found this article which details the specs that Intel has published for manufacturers to comply with the Ultrabook standard they provided. The short answer is that they are lighter (3-3.5 lbs.), slim (Jenny Craig references allowed here), uses Solid State Drive (much like a USB Flash Drive), boot-up quickly (around 8-10 seconds), uses less power which allows the battery to last anywhere from 7-9 hours. So what’s not to like? Due to the thin-nature of these devices, you are probably going to have to sacrifice a docking station or Optical (CD-ROM/DVD) Drive to keep the device within Intel’s guidelines, so again the question is, what’s not to like? You will have the ability to purchase accessories to replace the Docking Station or Optical Drive, which might be clumsy in a PC bag, but will definitely lighten the load when it comes to something light and thin. Clearly this is not for everyone but a perfect opportunity for those who have gravitated to iPads and Tablets but now want the true ability to have just about everything they had with a true Laptop/Notebook but without really sacrificing ease of use as well as performance. Can’t wait to see Windows 8 with touchscreen capabilities, but for now, the future of mobile computing is about to take a huge leap forward. Let’s Go Mobile!—very-possibly-the-next-true-killer-mobile-devices80897?referaltype=newsletter
By Tony Rizzo, Editor in Chief

When the infamous shark from the original Jaws first made its appearance, the town in which the shark appeared was unable to comprehend what exactly the town was up against. A massive killer with amazing resilience is certainly an apt description – and one that Intel no doubt hopes will become an apt description as well for its new Ultrabook concept.
When it comes down to information technology hardware tools the enterprise world, at least as far as its collective workforce is concerned, has never had it so good. From an enormous range of BYOD smartphones to the iPad (and a collection of other much less deployed tablets), the enterprise workforce has had lots of smart mobile device choice become the norm for ways to drive a more mobile and more nimble way of working. The laptop, for the most part the one de facto and ubiquitous piece of enterprise-supplied hardware hasn’t, however, truly participated in this mobile-driven explosion of choices – and could conceivably become obsolete over time.
Laptops, for the most part, remain cumbersome devices – too big, too heavy, too difficult to lug around. And yet most of us have no choice but to do so if we function in roles that require heavy duty – or for that matter even moderate – use of spreadsheets, word processors, or other important enterprise software where a keyboard and more precise handling of pointing devices (i.e. the mouse) is a necessary part of the work day.
It’s true of course that Apple’s Macbook Air did much to suggest that the enterprise world doesn’t have to operate this way, but the machine is pricey, and hardly suitable for mass workforce consumption. Further, as nice as the Macbook Air is, it isn’t an out of the box Windows machine – and the enterprise, as much as Apple would like to change it, is a Windows world. That said, Apple’s ongoing assault on what has been the static nature of the last 20 years of enterprise hardware (that is, Intel and Microsoft driven laptops) has finally started to bear non-trivial results – enough so that both Micrsoft and Intel have figured out that the enterprise hardware world has to change, and that both companies need to change with it.
Microsoft has seemed like a huge laggard on the mobility front – and in many ways it has been, but this is true for the most part on the consumer side of things. On the enterprise side it remains a laggard only in the sense that it is taking its sweet time to deliver Windows 8 and Windows 8 RT. But Microsoft has paid a great deal of attention to how mobility is going to play out in the enterprise over the next five years and is putting together a powerful foundation for it.
Intel has followed suit, by moving to drive hardware vendors to deliver new “mobile” laptops that pay attention to the specific desires of users: extreme light weight, really fast boot up and sleep/hibernation wake times, and machines that are able to deliver larger screen sizes in smaller overall laptop packages. Intel has gone so far as to create a specific set of requirements for this new class of mobile laptop, and it has gone several steps further in that it has created an actual class of laptop – the Ultrabook (with a capitalized letter U), a term that Intel has also trademarked.

Intel Inside, Intel Outside
Most people recall Intel’s highly successful “Intel Inside” marketing campaign and game plan – which drove a great deal of Intel’s business for many years. With the Ultrabook concept Intel is now seeking to reprise that success. For hardware vendor marketers, what this means is that by delivering laptops that meet Intel’s guidelines for what an Ultrabook is, they can place “Ultrabook Inspired” stickers on their machines, can call the machines Ultrabooks (with a capital U), and perhaps more importantly – depending on the vendor, can tap into Intel-provided marketing dollars.
The first true early crop of Ultrabooks appeared during the Consumer Electronics Show that took place in early January 2012. We would not go so far as to say these machines were particularly inspiring from a look and feel perspective, but they all met the Intel definition for an Ultrabook (we’ll get to that definition in short order). Meanwhile, the Ultrabooks we’ve provided profiles of in this article strongly suggest, we believe, the potential of Ultrabooks even at this early limited stage of their deployment.
Prior to the notion of Ultrabooks, vendors had been searching for ways to tackle Apple’s Macbook Air – machines such as Samsung’s earlier S series hardware, for example, tried to tap into more sophisticated external laptop shells – that in some cases came close to but never really managed to match the Macbook Air. As in all cases involving design, Apple simply dominated and continues to dominate.
Intel has jumped in here to provide not only an Ultrabook specification, but also the necessary chipsets – from new “mobile” i5 and i7 processors to specialized and optimized graphics and communications chips – for vendors to use that will allow ever decreasing weight and overall thickness – from which it hopes vendors will deliver inspired new designs that can match and, as improbable as it may seem, perhaps surpass Apple in design ingenuity. The external configurations of Ultrabooks are as important as what Intel supplies internally. It is a new symbiotic relationship that Intel is driving between internal capabilities and external appearances that become the keys to potential success.

An Ultrabook Is…
For a hardware vendor to be able to call a laptop an Ultrabook in today’s marketplace (and to be able to use the Ultrabook Inspired sticker and participate in Intel marketing programs) that laptop must be able to provide the following key characteristics:

  • Delivers light weight, typically below 3.5 lbs. and ideally below 3 lbs.
  • Offers a significantly slim profile – must be less than an inch thick, and with current models typically around .7” at its thickest point
  • Takes advantage of Intel’s newest 3rd generation mobile i5 and i7 processors
  • Delivers superfast boot up capability after initial configuration
  • Typically makes use of solid state drive (SSD) technology for fast mass storage access, with traditional hard drives taking a back seat
  • Is able to wake up from sleep, deep sleep and hibernation modes in under 8 seconds
  • Provide HD-quality viewing capabilities
  • Provides a multi-touch mouse pad with gesture support
  • Deliver exceptionally long battery life – at least 7 to 8 hours or more of sustained use and outstanding standby life

Intel has created technologies for vendors to use that drive these capabilities:

  • Intel Rapid Start Technology allows a machine to come back to life inside of 8 seconds – or less. Other classes of laptops can certainly use the technology, but in the case of Ultrabooks, it also delivers significant power savings
  • Intel Smart Response Technology delivers up to 2 times faster hard drive performance by automatically storing frequently used applications, games, and files/documents and delivering much faster access and startup times
  • Intel Smart Connect Technology continually and automatically updates email, social networks, and favorite apps that access the Internet when a system is asleep – so that a user is completely current at the point that user wakes the Ultrabook up (not all Ultrabooks support this feature, but it is not an absolute requirement in order to refer to a laptop as an Ultrabook)

This is all technology that is unique to the current crop of Ultrabooks (although much larger laptops also utilize some of this technology), but it is merely a starting point for where Intel wants to see the technology go. Two additional technologies that Intel is now beginning to bring to the game are:

  • Intel Anti-Theft Technology that will allow IT to lock down lost or stolen laptops, even if attempts are made to reimage the OS, change the boot order, or install a new hard drive
  • Intel Identity Protection Technology that provides for hardware-based two factor authentication

These security capabilities are important in today’s world of standard laptops, of course. But as Ultrabooks lead to a next generation of far more mobile devices that will see users take them wherever they go, security becomes an increasingly more important requirement.
Finally, it is highly worth noting that Intel is working to ensure that upcoming Ultrabook designs will provide touch screen capability, giving the user total control over input choice, depending on the applications being used, to make use of whichever input capability – keyboard, mouse, stylus, fingers – the user wants to use.
Ultrabooks are entirely new – but they represent, we believe, the likely future of enterprise hardware, especially as Windows 8 becomes available and Ultrabooks begin to take advantage of it. Much as tablets can serve a good chunk of the needs of mobile users, and as new tablet ideas such as those Microsoft has now presented with its recently announced Surface (refer to page 33 in this issue for details) put added pressure on laptop development, Ultrabooks begin to look like the happy successors to today’s laptops for meeting the preponderance of enterprise needs. And today is the day to begin investigating and planning scenarios for formal deployments.


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